“Spidery” Specimens

I can’t believe it’s almost the 4th of July!  Even in this place of permanent summer, the July holiday represents a psychological downslope toward Fall and all it entails: shorter days, busier schedules, and dare I whisper it…the holidays. 😮  However, to quote our wise old patriot, Ben Franklin, “Do not anticipate trouble…… keep in the sunlight.”   Today I’ll take his advice and show you some spidery specimens growing in my rear garden.


This viney shrub from tropical Africa, Strophanthus Preussii, is commonly known as “spiders tresses”  and grows up to 13′ tall.  The flowers’ ovate petals narrow into tails up to 11″ long. The next photo gives you a better look at the plant’s striking foliage; notice too, the additional offshoots where more of the unusual flowers are forming:


Multiple traditional uses of Strophanthus preussii  have been recorded in several African countries. Nigerian tribes use the plant’s stems to construct hunting bows. In Zaire, the sap is used medicinally to treat wounds and induce labor in pregnant women.  In Gabon, the young leaves are cooked and eaten as a vegetable.

Not all uses of Spider’s Tresses are for the common good, however!

Strophanthus species contain cardiac glycosides that increase blood flow around the heart. In large amounts these glycosides are poisonous and have been used historically in poison arrow concoctions. Crazy stuff!

Thankfully, my next spidery specimen has NO nefarious uses:


Typically these Brassia Maculatas (aka Spider Orchids) open toward the end of August, and once, even as late as November!  I was VERY surprised to see blooms before July 4th!!


The Brassia is an epiphytic orchid native to the wet forests of Central/South America, and named after 19th century British botanical illustrator, William Brass. Their spidery look gives Brassias a distinct reproductive advantage. Parasitic wasps who typically lay their eggs on spiders, get confused by the orchid’s appearance and land on the flowers instead. As the wasps flit from plant to plant, they create one of nature’s best win-win situations: the wasps reproduce,  the brassias get pollinated, and a few very lucky 8 legged insects are saved in the process!  Wait…..that’s win-win-win! 😉

To learn more about orchids check out the American Orchid Society Website.

Until next time…..

🙂 🙂 🙂



13 thoughts on ““Spidery” Specimens

  1. Both of these are ultra beautiful!!! I want one of these awesome Brassias!!!
    Take care, and hope you are feeling wonderful!

    • Hey Julie…..the heat continues! Your cacti and succulents must be growing as fast as mine…seriously, I can’t believe how BIG some have gotten when comparing pics from last year to this!
      Thank you so much for popping in with a comment. Hope you have a wicked fun 4th!

    • LOL you are TOO kind!
      Seriously, growing plants here has everything to do with living in a warm climate and little to do with the gardener. My step dad has a favorite quote: “you could put a 2×4 in the ground here and it would grow!” ,,,,,and he’s right! I’m very surprised at how easy it is to get stuff going here…as long as you water during the dry times, you’re set!
      However……i’d sure love to see a tulip come up…or catch the scent of lilac in the night breeze…those are two things that won’t grow here, 2×4 story notwithstanding!

      • We were in San Francisco last month and I was surprised at the variety of plant life. A street sign will be completely surrounded by a beautiful collection of plants. Here it will be surrounded by a pile of rock salt!

  2. Your garden, and your obvious joy never ceases to amaze, fascinate and entertain me. It must be such a beautiful place, with such greenery around you – and the stories to be told of the wonderful plants…. an education too! That’s got to be a win0win-win- win 🙂

    • oh! thank you!
      I’m so happy you’ve enjoyed looking through the blog. You know how it is….sometimes you wonder if anyone other than a few family members and friends actually look at all!
      🙂 Thank you for following me!

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